30.9.14

New beginnings, new site - happy days are here again!!

Life it seems moves on whether we know it or not.
 
After several months of stress and worry things have settled down and I could not be happier, so with "the real world" now sorted out time to return to the forest.
 
It feels like a life time ago that I last managed to get out and enjoy a evening in the forest so I was more than pleased when Steve managed to get a few days off so we could get into the hills and have a hike and an overnighter - more importantly it was also a recce for future trips off my own and a chance to see how Scampi would behave in the woods for the night.
 
 

The weather was good and I had planned a route that included a couple of pubs as I felt a pub lunch was called for too!!

Myself I had my trusty old PLCE and Steve a equally trusty old LK35, Our kit was minimal as we like to keep to the basics.

The hike out was great, especially as we left my front door and almost straight way were on the route - One advantage of my new home is that I have seven national trails all within walking distance!


The route was across a mixture of lowland fens followed by the rolling hills of the Hampshire countryside.



In all my years of living and working in the outdoors I think this is the first time I have seen beech nuts open and ready to harvest/eat on the tree - one sure thing about nature she always has a new treat in store for those who truly love her - she's a good ol' girl like that!



After a hot and humid 6 or 7 miles, parched and hungry, we arrived at the pub I had aimed to have lunch at .............. and it truly was the lunch of Kings ............




That was one hell of a burger - however soon we were back on the trail and our final leg into the forest and what we hoped would be our home for the night.






 


As always the forest welcomed us into its dapple shade. Week days most woodlands in Britain are the domain of the deer and wilder beasts although Dog walkers tend to pop up all over the place too, so finding a quiet spot is usually a matter of skill, judgement and the ability to stealth camp ............... although as I have often said, that is as much part of the fun as anything.



My shelter, decided to rig my poncho diamond shelter style so I could store my pack and the also create a living space for the dog behind my sleeping bag. Have to say it worked well maximising the area of the poncho very well.



My cook system, again keeping it simple, was a DDR mess kit, folding kuksa and a trangia stove - one good thing about a trangia is that when full of fuel it will generally allow you a weekend/about four boils of the kettle. This kitchen works well for me as I can carry 24hrs rations in the mess tins including brew kit and it is compact and light.


 
Our evening was calm. The setting sun mellowed us as we sat before the fire and chilled out - roughing it smooth for sure!!
 

This was the view from my bedroom window in the morning - it actually doesn't do it justice and the rising sun burnt golden shadows across the shallow re-entrant below me and turned the whole forest warmest yellow. Just awakening to such beauty does the soul good and reminds a man of his place in the scheme of things.


And even Scampi seemed to enjoy his night out - snug in his fleece line dog coat he surpassed my expectations too - Daniel Boone and many a frontiersmen went off in the company of their hounds, indeed I am sure a man and a dog in the woods together is a sight that probably dates back into the dawn of our species for once that first wolf pup was domesticated it would have become both friend and protector of man. Even today we can still enjoy that relationship and the wise woodsman also learns to watch his dog and use its senses to enhance his own!!

Great trip and cant wait for the next!!

2.9.14

DAVE CANTERBURY'S BUSHCRAFT 101


 

Dave Canterbury's bushcraft  101 has been reviewed before, I have seen at least one review on a US forum slatting the book but what the reviewer seemed to fail to understand is the definition of the term 101 -

101 Definition / 101 Means

The definition of 101 is "Basic introduction"


With this in mind the reader knows what to expect and that is exactly what you get. It is a VERY basic book aimed at the beginner.

Over half the content is about kit - not skills although there are little snippets of such dotted about the book. This is great for the beginner and there is even a kit list broken down from pocket kit all the way up to rucksack but oddly this list is at odds with the further chapters?

As a for example in the kit list (found at 10% on the kindle) makes no mention of any form of water carriage ie bottle and yet he later goes on to talk about water bottles and which are best, pointing out how important water is ...... so why no water bottle on the kit list??

OK it might be an over site, if you read the whole book you should realise this but as the book seems to be aimed at the novice they might not get this! More to the point if they were to just copy out the kit list and pack it before heading off to the woods they would soon be thirsty and potentially, in a desert area, this might prove deadly!

So if you are a novice and buy this book please cross reference everything to ensure you cover yourself. Oh ya and if you practice bow drill while the image in the book probably isn't drawn by Dave I should point of the loop on the bow is on the wrong side of the string - loop on the outside generally makes bow drilling more successful in my experience.

There are some good items in the book also - plans for a axe sheath for example. And a lot of items about traditional gear which interested me even though I have made Roycroft frames and done the whole blanket roll thing it still made good reading.

One thing I did like about the book was that it gave me pause to consider and rethink my own kit - something I do all the time anyway.

So pros' - its a easy read, the few pictures it contains are clear, the recipes at the back are handy and I will be trying the hard tack one tonight. If your a beginner this book is clear and concise with good kit definitions.

Con's - very few pictures, nothing new to be found in the pages if you have any experience. The odd, blatant plug for his own brand/shop cheapened the book and seemed a little cynical to me.

Summary - a good book for a beginner, a good read for anyone with a few hours to spare but not inspiring to none novices. DC fans will probably like it and I'd recommend it to any newbie confused about what kit to carry or buy but beyond that it didn't live up to what I was expecting or hoping for. All that said I don't regret the £7 I spent on it for my kindle but I wouldn't pay more for it.

Lastly, Ray Mears once said that any book you read, if you can gleen one snippet of info from it, is worth the read. By that definition it is worth a read but only just.







 

 


 

26.8.14

18th Century Soldier's kit and the modern alternatives

Further to my below post I have spent many days researching the typical kit of the 18th century outdoorsman. My findings have been interesting especially when compared with my modern gear and that promoted by guys like Dave Canterbury who I am growing to admire immensely.

So what would a 18th Century soldier have?? Below is a list taken from the diary of a French officer from the 1700's, I have left out none relevant items like gun flints and powder horns ect btw.

Summer issue items
  1. Blanket
  2. Capote
  3. Shirt x2
  4. Trousers
  5. Underpants
  6. Socks
  7. Hussif
  8. Fire Steel and Flint
  9. Butcher knife
  10. Comb
  11. Mocassins
  12. Tomahawk
Additional winter items

  1. 2 extra pairs of socks
  2. Mittens
  3. Vest
  4. Folding knife x2
  5. Long underwear (material for the use of)
  6. Bearskin
Also issued per 2 men

  1. Cooking pot
  2. Axe
  3. Tarpaulin

With their wool uniforms this kit seems pretty good for the prevailing conditions that would have been found in the wilderness north of New York well into Canada.

So my own kit or the equivalent of -

  1. Blanket
  2. Wool smock (made from army blanket)
  3. 5.11 shirt and t-shirt/Zip neck shirt
  4. Trouser
  5. Underpants
  6. Socks
  7. Sewing kit
  8. Fireset - firesteel and Bic lighter
  9. Butcher knife
  10. Wash kit inc comb and tooth cleaning items
  11. Walking Boots
  12. Tomahawk


  1.  2 x Socks
  2. Mittens (with leather choppers)
  3. JHW (army jumper)
  4. 2 x Opinel knives or 1 x Opinel 1 x Mora No1
  5. Long underwear
  6. Sleeping bag - MSS or similar inc thermarest and bivi bag

The similarities are there - mostly even the materials are similar - really only the tech has changed for example a flint and steel replaced with a fire steel (ferro rod) ......... some stuff missed out were items not considered as personal issue for example candles as these were issues per 100 for guard duties etc and considered part of the rations hence here we don't mention them or a torch - one thing I wouldn't leave out of my modern gear is a first aid kit but I doubt the 18th C soldier had access to anything we might consider as even the most basic of kits.

So what does this mean? Well in light of the previous post it certainly means changing my kit isn't really necessary, it also means my skills, while always having room to improve, wont require to much adapting.

This means two things firstly, that my kit is pretty basic and that my skills are pretty good, I already carry less by knowing more as the saying goes. Secondly, that I will need to caste my net further a field to find new inspiration - although even with modern kit I can still "play" the same scenario I mentioned before as the rules of the game are still the same!

With all this in mind tomorrow I'll be in the loft sorting out my kit and then watch out ebay here I come with the surplus - a few smart bushcrafters are about to be made very happy with some bargain kit!!





20.8.14

Just an update

Quick up date dear reader ........... Since I wrote my last post here I have been doing much thinking and sorting out of gear - potentially the Average Joe bushcraft theme has fallen by the way side as I find myself drawn to more traditional forms of the craft.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love the mountain man era and it is this period that seems to be drawing me in. I'm not abandoning modern gear all together as my hiking and longer term gear will still be modern but for day trips and overnighters I am seriously reshaping my kit to a more traditional rig. I hope to merge the two for longer outings too but I don't think you'll be seeing me walking down the round looking like Davy Crockett any time soon.

This also fits my life style now and takes me back to my bushcraft roots as my view of the hobby has always been Blanket, Billy and Blade orientated. It also marries in nicely with my love of stealth camping as if I follow the traditional theme then I can have a scenario for my trips too.

Imagine the fun to be had on a overnighter where the scenario is your a lone trapper in hostile Indian country, everybody you pass in the woods is Huron or Sioux or whatever tribe you want them to be and are to be avoided! You will need to use your skills to survive and avoid detection ........... add to this the research and new skills that can be learnt and I think for me it will be a way of perking up my bushcraft.

I KNOW its not for everyone, the glampers, the expedition style campers, the weekend bushcrafters who like their 4 x 4's and their shineys etc and I don't care - I'm not doing it for them I'm doing it for me and the pleasure I will get from it.

I suspect over time my posts will become more and more bogged down with historically correct gear to the point where I could be re-enacting but that is not my plan at the moment. My plan is use modern gear but only as a alternative to what was traditional for example a stainless steel billy instead of a copper tea kettle, or a cotton army smock instead of a hessian hunting smock etc.

At the time of writing I have no idea where this "change" will take me all I do know is that for some time now the commercialism and the mass marketing of bushcraft has bored me, there is nothing new out there. My hope is that by taking a step back in time I will regenerate my flagging interest, give myself something new to learn while also allowing me to rediscover old skills I haven't used in many years.

I look forward to the journey and hope those of you interested enough to read my future ramblings will enjoy the trip as much as I do.

24.7.14

The term Bushcraft is a trademark in America

Its a rare event when I find the need to delete or edit a post but in this event I do.

My original post on this subject was more a reaction to what I read on the below blog

http://woodtrekker.blogspot.co.uk/

Since reading this and the comments posted here I have done some research and read a few blogs etc - and my opinion has changed hence the edit to this article.

Thanks mostly to AMERICAN GROUCH and Wikipedia I see that this is actually old news - one year old no less and as such not necessarily so shocking.

I have no problem with the bushcraftUSA trademark but I am still to get my head around them trade marking the word bushcraft??

So in the interest of fairness I have removed the original post - people can visit

http://www.americangrouch.com/

and

http://woodtrekker.blogspot.co.uk/

As these show both sides of the argument and make up their own minds.

Lastly -

Bushcraft should be all about learning to love and live with and within nature, learning and sharing skills that belong to us as a species. Bushcraft skills are our inheritance as much as reading and writing are.

As long as that remains true I'm a happy man!

21.7.14

Average Joe - bushcrafts true trail


Average Joe Bushcraft



Introduction

Since the mid to later 1990's bushcraft has slowly become a very popular and expensive hobby. I can still remember the world BM (before Mears) when we didn't even know we were doing bushcraft when we went off to the woods or coast line and foraged and had fun!
 
These days I find it sad that so many people seem to think of bushcraft not by the skills they have/should learn but by the Kit they feel they have/should own. Now, before you comment in righteous outrage let me point out that I too have been one of you (gear hounds!) and it is not a insult merely a fact from my new prospective as you will see.
 
However recently, on my 48th Birthday no less, I had a run in with my manager which resulted in my handing in my notice and leaving my job. An event like this very quickly brings your priorities into sharp contrast. You may not like what you find but every cloud has a silver lining as I soon found out.
 
Firstly, I realised how rich I am in my family and friends and that in this respect I really am a wealthy man - Secondly, I realised after taking stock how much bushcraft gear I owned, and how much of it was "surplus to requirements" which was handy as I am/have sold the lot on Ebay for some much needed funds.
 
But, what this left me with is a much refined kit and a far greater appreciation of, not only how my hobby and myself had changed for possibly the worse, but also a clear picture and plan of how I could "find my bushcrafting roots" once more.

What is AVERAGE JOE BUSHCRAFT?

In Britain people of all ages and social groups enjoy bushcraft just as do similar folks all over the world, but for a long time TV companies here only seemed to employ well spoken middle class types to teach the skills ect and this I believe opened up the hobby to a particular group of people MAMoMCo's - the middle aged males of middle class origins (a generalisation I know but from my experience not one that is unfounded) - and this group of people more than any other had (pre-recession) a large surplus income they were only to happy to spend on their hobby. Before the mamomco age many of us still enjoyed the outdoor life but had to either make our own gear or generally rely on army surplus kit but after this (in the last two decades) the market has been flooded with gear as people hurriedly bought into a dream.
 
 
My new prospective however has made me realise that in chasing the dream with a wallet we miss some much and that in turn lead me to decide that would introduce to my blog a series of articles for the average joe (what Dave Canterbury terms a common man) - these articles, I hope will be of use to those who (and in this day an age there are lots of us) still want to enjoy the outdoors, enjoy bushcraft but who aren't lucky enough to have fat wallets.
 
To quote Ray Mears, "Of the students I have taught it is often those who cannot afford the fancy gear who learn bushcraft the quickest and most thoroughly - and in doing so gain in experience and confidence".
 
As Average Joe's, together we will learn new skills in both our back yards and in the woods, we will find out what is the best value gear and how we can use it to its greatest advantage  and much more.
 
More importantly as Average Joe's we will need to learn from each other so I humbly ask all my readers who are interested to submit articles to me also, those I feel relevant I will publish on this blog - also please send me links to anything you think our community might benefit from and like wise I will share that knowledge.



Next Article - Average Joe Bushcraft Gear ......... Minimal kit maximum skills.